Jeannie Deva has appeared on E! Entertainment and TV Guide Stations and has been endorsed by producers and engineers of Amy Winehouse, The Rolling Stones, The Cars, Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac.
Ms. Deva's client list includes Grammy Award winners (including Aimee Mann, Patty Griffin), American Idol finalists, Felecia Howes of the Multi-Platinum Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, South American Superstar Ruddy Rodriguez, Singer/Actress Lynda Carter, plus leads in Broadway's Wicked, Rent, The Lion King and Grease, members of the rock bands J. Geils Band and Foghat, and backup singers for megastars Celine Dion, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Stevie Wonder and Janet Jackson.
Since introducing the world to her innovative Deva Method of vocal training in the mid-'70s, Jeannie Deva has become one of the most internationally respected and in-demand vocal coaches, recording studio vocal coach, columnist, top clinician, trainer of voice teachers and published author of The Contemporary Vocalist book and CDs series, The Deva Method® Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs CD. Voice teachers around the world base their teaching on Jeannie's method.
How to Choose a Song Key
By Jeannie Deva
(Excerpted from Jeannie’s eBook: “Singer’s Guide to Powerful Performances”)
At each point in your developing singing career, putting forth your best presentation is essential. This includes knowing how to choose a song key that allows you to sound your best and feel comfortable. The choice of key will change from song to song depending upon how your voice interacts with the melody.
Since the first melody note is not likely to be the highest or lowest pitch of a song, make sure that the starting note you choose permits you to sing the entire song comfortably.
Sing through the entire song to determine the highest and lowest notes. If you have a loss of tone below a certain pitch, or have to squeal or force your voice to get above a certain pitch, then you’ll need to adjust the starting note of the song to suit your current range. Changing the starting note also means changing the overall key of the song.
You’ll make your best presentation if you choose a key in which you can sing the entire melody range with ease while also sounding appropriate for the style and mood. If you have a wide range and are able to sing a song in several different keys, then the mood of the song should also determine your choice of key. For example, singing a sad bluesy song in your upper range may sound odd. Try it and see.
In general, it’s important to base your choices on your current ability rather than what you hope to be able to achieve in the future. Choose song keys that don’t invite self-doubt or tension. While singing, you don’t want to be wondering, “Will I be able to hit that note or not?”
Here’s a step-by-step exercise to determine the best possible song key for your voice.
An audio recording of a song
The lyrics written out on paper
A pen or highlighter
A recording device such as a Smartphone recording APP
A Pitch Pipe or some way of identifying pitches
Exercise: Finding the Best Key
1) Select a song you’re familiar with but haven’t yet performed.
2) Pick a note to start singing the song and if you can, begin recording yourself.
3) Sing through the song and:
A. Find the highest note in the melody and mark it on the lyric sheet where it occurs
B. Find the lowest note and mark that on the lyrics
If the highest and lowest notes are comfortable in your usable range, this is a good key. For future reference, find out what note you started on which made singing the whole song comfortable. By knowing this, you can use a pitch pipe to begin on the right note each time.
If not, you’ll need to adjust the key as follows:
If the highest note in the song is too high … adjust your starting note to a lower pitch. You can do this incrementally, moving down a half or whole step at a time until the song sits comfortably in your range. By using a pitch pipe or a musical instrument, mark down what note you started singing on.
If the lowest note in the song is too low … adjust your starting note to a higher pitch.
If you lower and raise the key and you are still having problems, it’s possible that the song demands more range than you have at this time. Find another song which demands less vocal range or get some voice training to expand your range.
If you don’t know music theory, you can have a trained musician help you name the key and then write it down. This information will enable the instrumentalists in a band to play the song with you.